School's historic integration honored
MIAMI (WSVN) -- In 1961, Archbishop Curley High became the first school in Florida to integrate black and white students. On Wednesday, those who lived through the experience returned to their alma mater to talk about the historic move.
When Paul Wyche applied to Archbishop Curley High 50 years ago, the school's principal called the Archdiocese of Miami wanting to know what to do regarding the black youngster's inquiry. "The Archbishop said, 'Obviously you accept the children but don't make a fuss about it,'" Archbishop Curley High principal Brother Sean Moffett recalled.
"Curley was really the place that not only welcomed us but embraced us as family," said Wyche, Archbishop Curley High's first black student.
Archbishop Curley High was an all-boys school at the time, but years later would merge with Notre Dame Academy, which was still a girls-only school in 1961. Ten years after that merger, the rest of Miami-Dade Public Schools would catch up after a federal court order forced schools to integrate throughout the district.
About 40 Class of 1961 graduates of the then separate Archbishop Curley High and Notre Dame Academy schools shared their memories of that year's momentous shift with current students. "And the looks on their faces, they were shocked," said Larry Zigmont, a member of Archbishop Curley High's 1961 graduating class. "They couldn't believe that something like that went on and that we lived through that."
"I thought it was awesome, just hearing them speak, describing how the lifestyle was back then; you kind of feel it in your heart: 'We were in this school. It's not like that now,' but then, when you hear them talk about their school, their teachers and how attention was, it gave me goosebumps," said Arenna Rathjns, who was among the current Archbishop Curley High Notre Dame students who celebrated the school's 50th integrated year Wednesday.
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